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At 10:43am on September 11, 2010, Keith Hart said…
That's well-expressed, Michael. Story-telling as psychotherapy. I sometimes think of anthropology as potentially a sort of global psychotherapy.
It is true that people are often tipped into mental illness by the stress of a traumatic life event. But what happens next? Many of us at first resist a medical version of our condition and the chemical treatment that goes with it. But after five years of repeated hospitalization I was persuaded by a gifted doctor that I was suffering from an inherited potential for mental illness that was difficult to reverse once it had been triggered by stress. He showed me the epidemiology of the kind of bipolarity he had diagnosed for me and I fit the profile incannily. He said that, if I was lucky, my condition might get better in my mid-50s (I was then 40). In the meantime I should take my medicine. I did and I benefited also from another gifted therapist for a decade. We concentrated less on story-telling and more on practical methods for getting through the days. In my mid-50s the illness disappeared after two decades of great suffering and nine incarcerations. I was told that few people ever maintain a professional career through that sort of experience. Now I am sure that psychotherapy helped me restore balance to my life, but I do not discount the analysis and treatment provided by medical science. I still take lithium since I can't remain stable without it. I believe that my illness was something objective, an aspect of the way my mind is formed. I certainly learned some restorative values in those twenty years, but I doubt I would have survived without medical treatment. So my question for you is, Do you offer myths a an alternative to medical treatment or as complementary to it?
Maybe I will come back. I loved the area and Yeats has always been one of my two favourite poets. I have personal, but not professional knowledge of what you are talking about, since I suffered from a major psychiatric illness for two decades in mid-life. I should say that, having devoted my professional life to Analysis, my passion was always Story and I am now able to indulge it more fully. Hence my interest in Synge too.
Welcome to the OAC, Michael. I have fond memories of a visit to Sligo and really like your website. Yeats and Synge have always been among my favourites. Synge's The Aran Islands (1907) is a neglected masterpiece, a fusion of reflexive ethnography and folklore that is as powerful as anything by Van Gennep and a contemporary of the first English ethnography, Rivers's The Todas.